I wish my grandma loved her body.
Her body, which has given life, and warmth, and love.
Her legs have carried and kept her sturdy for 80 years, but she wishes they were thinner. Still.
Her belly jiggles and bounces with delight when she hears a good joke, but she wishes her belly was smaller. Though perfect for holding and nurturing her children, her stomach has always been viewed as a traitor, an enemy. Someone she must contend with when she looks in the mirror.
My mother inherited her body shame.
No matter how much weight she loses, she is unsatisfied. It is never enough.
I began thinking about weight at an early age. We always had a scale in our bathroom and Weight Watchers literature readily available. My mom’s friends were also all dieting, though interestingly, I never saw any men be concerned about their weight.
I was a picky eater and tall, so it took me longer to grow into my body. I was called skinny-mini and Olive Oil A LOT as a kid, I didn’t think anything of it until it stopped. I remember girls in the locker room in 7th grade inspecting their bodies in the mirror and joking that they wished they had the commitment to starve themselves or to be bulimic. We’d all nod and agree, it would just be SO amazing to be smaller than we were at 12. I was also 12 when I had my first slim-fast shake.
When I joined track in the 8th grade, I began to put on weight. I would be told, lovingly, to watch the amount of bread/food/whatever I was eating, because I didn’t want to end up like my mom and grandma. Growing up, it never felt like an option for me to love food. Food was always an enemy that would one day betray me. If it’s SO good, then it’s really SO bad, and I better watch how much I eat and properly mourn my physique later.
Health was never emphasized, it always came secondary to weight. Count calories, eat less, eat only fruit, drink weight-loss smoothies. I think the emphasis on restricting food is partly due to our financial circumstances. Wealthy people that want to diet will eat healthy food, and work out: poor people starve themselves and drink slim-fast. The number of times I heard “Oh, you’re on Adderall? You’re so lucky you don’t have an appetite” from older women was appalling in retrospect.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food. This came to a head after I gained 15 lbs in college. I gained 10 more after my sexual assault. I decided I wanted to lose weight. From then on, every food had a calorie amount attached to it.
You may not know this, but it is common for people with ADHD to struggle with binge-eating. I had always struggled a bit with impulse control and binge eating before college, but it came out in full force during college. I would spend the day actively avoiding food or being too focused to eat and then break down and binge at night, feel sick and ashamed of myself, rinse, repeat.
It was like I was back in 7th grade again. If only I had the commitment to be skinny. That’s all it really is, right? Willpower, grit, and maybe laxatives were all that stood between me and the perfect body. 145 lbs. That was my weight my senior year of high school, and up until recently, had been my target weight. I failed to see the irony of going back to a weight I had felt ashamed of at the time. I spent 10 years chasing this fantasy, disliking myself the same amount at 170 and at 150.
Why did this number matter? Why was it my obsession? I weighed myself almost weekly, I took progress photos in my mirror for years. I continued to feel shame and hate my body anyway. I disliked being in a bathing suit, being in photos, all reminders that my body fell short of my expectations.
I remember my mom avoiding being in photos when she was heavier. I hardly have any of her from my middle school years or high school years. When I get my picture taken, the first thing I do is look for all the ways I can hate my body.
I don’t really have advice on how to love yourself more because I am still trying to figure out how to do that. During the pandemic, I stopped wearing makeup. This made me realize how much shame I carried about my own face. I noticed that not wearing make-up before the pandemic produced the same anxiety and shame that I felt with my body. I didn’t love myself when I looked in the mirror unless there was eyeliner and mascara involved.
I have started a new relationship with my body, and we like each other most days. I have stopped abusing myself with starvation tactics, binging, guilt, and self-hate. I am choosing to make peace with this body and while I may not love it right now,
I do like it.